C.J. McCollum, the player that some Blazer fans are calling and hoping will be a “second coming” of reigning Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard. He has almost all the makings of a Dame 2, however he probably won’t be afforded the same opportunities. Let’s get to know McCollum first.
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A 3+ year player at Lehigh University, he played brilliantly at the small school. McCollum’s senior season was cut short by injury (as has been well-documented) but that didn’t deter him from pursuing the dream of playing in the NBA. In his three plus years, he shot 37.6% from three and 43.9% from the field in general. He has never shot below 81% from the FT line and a career of 82.5%. With percentages like that, it is no surprise that McCollum was good for at least 19 PPG. His lowest PPG average came his freshman year at 19.1 PPG. His sophomore and junior year were only separated by one decimal point, 21.8 vs. 21.9, and in his shortened senior year he was scoring 23.9 before he got hurt.
Most people will remember McCollum’s team because they beat Duke in the first round. Lehigh was the 15 seed and beat the #2 ranked Blue Devils, 75-70. Who was the leading scorer for Lehigh? You guessed it, McCollum He had 30 points, six assists, 6 rebounds, and two steals. He was 10/16 (62.5%) from the FT line and 9-24 (37.5%) from the field. So even in an “off night” shooting, McCollum still fought, still set up his teammates, still drawing fouls and still clawed until his team upset the Blue Devils.
Through college McCollum was really good at “fielding his position”. He rebounded really well for a guard and never averaged below five a game in college. Over his career he averaged 6.3 rebounds per game. He was also a master of pickpocketing, averaging 2.1 steals a game while at Lehigh.
The Blazers are hoping the McCollum can become a good #2 to Lillard, however they aren’t giving up on or getting rid of Wesley Matthews. McCollum will be one of the many guards on the bench and he will most likely be competing with Will Barton for playing time. McCollum will also be able to spell Mo Williams, who will most likely be Lillard’s backup. You may even see a Williams-McCollum backcourt if they work better than a Williams-Barton backcourt.
Look for McCollum to get plenty of playing time as Stotts wants to use his #10 overall pick not just have him sit on the bench. There are a lot of options for Stotts to play with and use the whole roster this year. McCollum will be a key cog going forward, but we’ll have to see how much he’ll be used in his rookie campaign. If he is able to “wow” coaches and play well like he did in Summer League, than he’ll be getting plenty of playing time. However, if he struggles expect the coaches to hold him out and build his confidence in practice instead of destroying his confidence because of his struggles. All that being said, McCollum is a resilient player and he will do whatever it takes to get better and prove that he deserves time.
The future of the backcourt is looking bright in Portland, now it’s just a matter of when that future comes to fruition. A Lillard-McCollum backcourt could come as soon as this year or be delayed a couple years. We’ll see it all start to unfold Oct. 7.